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The Litigation Consulting Report

Don't Be Just Another Timeline Trial Lawyer

Posted by Ken Lopez on Fri, Nov 15, 2013 @ 07:10 AM


trial timeline lawyersby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

In my 18 years in the litigation consulting business, I've noticed that there are two types of trial lawyers. The first one is what I call a timeline lawyer. Usually, his or her opening statement always starts at the beginning, in terms of time, and ends at the end.

The second type, and by far the more successful type of trial lawyer, is the storyteller. Storytellers don't start at the beginning unless it serves them, and normally it does not.

Instead, the storyteller will begin where the story ought to begin. Usually it takes a form similar to this: Things used to be this way, then something happened, and now they have changed. Sometimes the storytelling trial lawyer will also follow Joseph Campbell’s paradigm of the hero’s journey. We have prepared an infographic that places the hero’s journey in context for trial.

We have written often about storytelling. We've shared how storytelling is being used increasingly as a persuasion device in the courtroom.  We have offered five tips for effective storytelling in court. We have even produced an entire book, which is a free download, called Storytelling for Litigators.

storytelling for judge jury courtroom best method for trial persuasion and emotion

That's not to say that timelines are a bad thing. Timelines are, in fact, key exhibits in most trials. They help orient the fact finder and serve as a memory stimulator for the trial lawyer and expert witness alike. They can also serve as a persuasion device if they are set up as a permanent exhibit at trial. Given the importance of timelines, you will not find it surprising that we've written an entire book about trial timelines too! And yes it's a free download.

I still advise you to rethink your strategy if your plan is to start at the beginning and end at the end. It's not a very effective strategy at all. You want your fact finders to care. You have to provide meaning and context for a judge or jury. As our senior jury consultant said in a related article, "[jurors] start at the end and work backward, forming a general theory into which they fit specific evidence from the top down. Once a juror’s theory is formed, new information is filtered through that theory and tested for how well it fits with the theory. Information confirming the theory is selectively attended to; ill-fitting information is missed, ignored, forgotten, or distorted to fit the theory, through cognitive dissonance."

We see this play out all the time. In a recent mock trial exercise, we watched as mock plaintiffs' counsel developed a story with meaning and emotional connection. Then we watched as our client, who was using the mock trial properly to figure out the best strategy for trial, stood up and told a chronological story that was so logical and syllogistic that a computer would certainly have found for the defendant.

However computers don't decide cases. In fact, here, all the mock jury panels came back vigorously against our client. When asked if they could articulate the story of each side during deliberations, the mock jury was able to spit out an elevator speech of the plaintiffs’ case in seconds complete with emotional meaning and impact. However not a single juror was able to articulate the defense story with any clarity.

Unless we tell stories and ask judges and juries what we want from them and give them an easy roadmap for giving us what we ask for, we're doing our clients a horrible disservice. Use your timelines in every case, but don't use them to organize your openings and closings, and you'll be a more successful trial lawyer for it.

Other related A2L consulting articles related to storytelling and timelines:

 storytelling for lawyers litigators and litigation support courtroom narrative

Tags: Trial Presentation, Jury Consulting, Trial Consulting, Jury Consultants, Storytelling, Persuasive Graphics, Timelines, Charity, Nancy Duarte

Every Litigator Should Watch Scott Harrison Deliver This Presentation

Posted by Ken Lopez on Thu, Oct 17, 2013 @ 11:10 AM


litigators can learn from scott harrison charity water presentationby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

I had the pleasure of speaking at a conference where another speaker blew me away recently. His name is Scott Harrison, and he is the founder of charity: water. What's special about Scott is what an exceptional storyteller, marketer and presenter he is.

He wants to solve the world’s water crisis in our lifetimes -- to make clean water accessible to every single person in the world.

Normally when I write a blog post it's designed to be consumed in a few minutes. This one has a one-hour video at the bottom of it. Chances are if you read our blog, you are a pretty busy person. I recently sent this video to about 100 close friends. I'm really enjoying how many of them are telling me that they watched it and how it changed their view of the world.

Briefly, Scott tells a compelling story that is understandable, simple and believable. It's something you can get your arms around. This is similar to what litigators are called upon to do every day. I just happen to think this guy has an unusual natural talent for it.

Scott has upended and disrupted charity in a way that frankly I had no idea needed to happen. I give to quite a few charities in the course of the year. I can't even remember what most of them are except for a few key ones. All I remember is that they were worthy causes, a friend asked and it was something I could easily do.

What Scott Harrison is doing is entirely different. He recognizes something that I didn't fully recognize before: I don’t really trust charities. For the most part I think they're not going to make good use of their money. They're going to probably be a bit better than government in efficiency but they're not going to be anything like the way we operate in the private sector.

charity: water, Scott’s organization, is different. Instead of reporting what percentage of their donations go to administrative costs, they give 100% of donated money to their projects. How is this possible? Simple: They fund raise separately for administrative costs to run the business, and they fund raise separately for donations. Scott figured out how valuable it is to be able to say that 100% of your donation goes to the people that need it.

clean water charity water scott harrisonThe second key feature of this charity is the fact that they prove every donation. This concept is quite wonderful when you understand what it means. Simply stated, it means that you're able to trace every single dollar to a specific project. Depending on the project, you will get tweets, Google maps, photographs, your name on a sign -- whatever it takes to prove that you contributed something specific.

Another technique that charity: water uses is amazingly simple: it's called giving away your birthday. The idea is that for your birthday instead of asking for presents or Facebook posts, you ask people to donate dollars equivalent to the number of years you have lived.

This is an amazing thing. My birthday is in a few weeks. I set a goal of raising about $2000 which will help about 50 people in India get clean water. I've raised about $1000 as of this writing. I think that's amazing. All in all, I see this organization as a reinvention in the entire way we think about charity.

To say I presented at the same conference as this founder of charity: water is a little bit embarrassing. It sounds as if I'm trying to associate myself with someone really great, and I think I am. What this guy is doing is on a whole other planet. I have no right to ask for an hour of your time, but I promise it will be worth it.

Like others who have seen Scott speak, when I left I felt compelled to act. His presentation was so moving and compelling that there's no other way I would have done anything else. Now, I've seen lots of charity presidents and executive directors stand up and ask for money. I've seen incredible stories that no one would say no to. But Scott's pitch was entirely different. What he's asking for doesn't just feel selfless. It feels like a movement. And people like movements. People like meaning.

I hope you can see where I'm going in this post. All of this is so similar to an opening statement and a closing statement in the cases we present that I hope you can see the similarity at once.

scott harrison presentation inbound charity waterWhen Scott presented his case, he gave it meaning. He told compelling stories. He used photography, graphics and simple slides to explain complex subjects. He used language and imagery that would appeal to visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning styles. Perhaps most important of all, at the end he asked me to do something. When you watch this presentation I want you to watch Scott Harrison's use of stories. How he memorizes what he presents. And how he uses graphics to make his case.

I make a living watching presentations, designing presentations and helping people improve how they present. Even though I know Scott’s presentation has been given hundreds of times, it felt real and new that day. And that is how we should make our judges and juries feel every time.

This doesn't mean playing on emotions because you can. It doesn't mean tugging heartstrings because you can. It doesn't mean slyly taking advantage because you can. No, it means being authentic, creating meaning, and asking for what's right.

Watch this video and tell me you can skip over doing something. Lots of people call us horrible things in the legal industry. Here's a chance to show something different. Watch this, learn from it, and then take action that feels right to you. You can donate to my campaign, you can start your own, but I'm telling you there's a movement underway here, and it's going to change the world.

Articles related to storytelling, persuasion and using graphics well on A2L Consulting's site:

Tags: Science, Presentation Graphics, Storytelling, PowerPoint, Closing Argument, Marketing, Charity, Information Design

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KenLopez resized 152

Ken Lopez founded A2L Consulting in 1995. The firm has since worked with litigators from all major law firms on more than 10,000 cases with over $2 trillion cumulatively at stake.  The A2L team is comprised of psychologists, jury consultants, trial consultants, litigation consultants, attorneys and information designers who provide jury consulting, litigation graphics and trial technology.  Ken Lopez can be reached at lopez@A2LC.com.


Tony Klapper joined A2L Consulting after accumulating 20 years of litigation experience while a partner at both Reed Smith and Kirkland & Ellis. Today, he is the Managing Director of Litigation Consulting and General Counsel for A2L Consulting. Tony has significant litigation experience in products liability, toxic tort, employment, financial services, government contract, insurance, and other commercial disputes.  In those matters, he has almost always been the point person for demonstrative evidence and narrative development on his trial teams. Tony can be reached at klapper@a2lc.com.

dr laurie kuslansky jury consultant a2l consulting

Laurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D., Managing Director, Trial & Jury Consulting, has conducted over 400 mock trials in more than 1,000 litigation engagements over the past 20 years. Dr. Kuslansky's goal is to provide the highest level of personalized client service possible whether one's need involves a mock trial, witness preparation, jury selection or a mock exercise not involving a jury. Dr. Kuslansky can be reached at kuslansky@A2LC.com.

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